Features: Undertaker (Mark Calaway)
Rating: NC17 for language and sexual situations Usual disclaimer - own nothing but my original characters, all the other people own themselves, WWE owns the trademark names, I'm doing this to exercise my creativity and for the sheer pleasure of writing. Ask my therapist!
Thanks so much for the feedback so far - so glad to know people are enjoying the story!
When Mark came into the kitchen after talking with Jake, he realized why Lizzie had been so eager to get him and Harley out of the house earlier that morning. She had gone all out with the dining table - hell, she'd even broken out a tablecloth from God only knew where, and the candlesticks were back too. She bustled into the kitchen and he fixed her with a level stare.
"Lizzie . . . "
She set down the vase of flowers she was carrying at the end of the dining table. "You're right - the flowers are a bit much. You can take them into her room for her later."
"No, you can take them home with you. What's all this in aid of?"
"Mark, I'm just trying to give things a little nudge - she's a nice girl."
Mark figured he should put a stop to this right now. "No, Lizzie, she's a nice woman, and things don't need nudging."
"Oh, so you've already asked her to marry you, have you?"
He was torn between laughter and horror. "Lizzie!"
She patted his arm. "I'm teasing on you, Mark, relax. I just thought that you two might like a special dinner - I've noticed that you've gotten closer since she came here."
Mark smiled at that. "Okay, that is true. But that's all, Lizzie. Don't try to make any more out of it, please. If anything else is going to happen, it's going to have to happen without help."
"Well, I won't be held responsible for what dinner might do then!" Lizzie chuckled.
"Lizzie," Mark said warningly.
She pointed around the kitchen, to foil covered dishes. "Stuffed veal chops. Asparagus tips in butter. A KoDu salad in the Frigidaire, along with that raspberry roasted pepper vinaigrette you liked so much last time you came over for dinner with us. And for dessert . . . "
Chuckling, she nodded towards the refrigerator. "Chocolate dipped truffles. And I'm aware you won't touch them, but I think Kate might enjoy one or two. Ain't a woman born who can resist chocolate - particularly if it's being offered to her by a man she's sweet on."
Mark rolled his eyes, and Lizzie laughed. "Bet you offer them to her anyway, Mark Calaway!"
He refused to say another word, heading off towards the master suite and his desk to go over some things he'd discussed with Jake. Lizzie put the finishing touches on dinner, and left some instructions on how to finish everything off before leaving with Jake.
The light was starting to fade when Mark came back out to the living room to light the fire. He stood for a moment surveying the dining table, including the candlesticks, and the flowers, which Lizzie had not taken with her as he'd instructed. And she called him a mule! A smile softened his expression after a moment - he thought that Harley might just deserve a dinner like this tonight. Who knew when they'd get the opportunity again?
He checked the kitchen, reading Lizzie's instructions - it was all simple enough. He headed for the guestroom, opening the door very quietly and peeking in. Harley lay sleeping on the bed, and Mark pushed the door open more and walked in. He smiled, looking at her, sitting down on the bed at her side. His hand reached out to gently brush her bangs away from her face.
She made a sleepy little sound as her eyes fluttered open to see Mark smiling at her. She smiled. "Hey."
"Hey yourself. Enjoy your nap?"
Harley gave a careful stretch and nodded. "I did, yes." She ran her hand up his arm with a little sigh of pleasure as she looked up at him.
Mark chuckled softly - he knew an invitation when he saw it. As Harley moved back towards the center of the bed, he lay down beside her, gathering her into his arms. She came willingly, nestling her head on his chest. He sighed himself then.
"Something wrong, Mark?" Harley asked quietly.
He shook his head, one hand stroking her back. "Just thinking how much nicer this feels when I'm not panicking that you're going to wake up and go nuclear when you find out where you are."
He could feel the warmth in her face against his chest, and he gently tipped her chin up so she was looking at him. "Nothing to be embarrassed about, Kate. Told you I wasn't going to complain about anything that happened that night, remember?"
She gave a little chuckle. "I can't even remember it, so this feels new to me."
He leaned his head up to kiss her lightly and then lay back, and she rested her head on his shoulder, smoothing her hand over his chest. He stroked his fingers through her hair very gently. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt quite so content. Oh, he certainly wished Harley wasn't recuperating from surgery - that had definitely put a dent in his plans for the two of them, but somehow it wasn't so important that he couldn't appreciate the pleasure just being with her was giving him. For two people who'd started out on the wrong foot, they were proving surprisingly compatible.
For her part, Harley was still in something of a daze. This was unlike any other relationship she'd had in years, but then she realized ruefully that she really hadn't had relationships. More like extended one night stands. All about the rush, the attraction, and, frankly, the sex. She couldn't remember the last time she'd had a conversation with a lover that hadn't been about sex. In fact, she could barely remember any conversations with past lovers, which was even worse. No wonder she sucked at intimacy other than of the physical kind.
Mark had almost had to hit her over the head to get her to notice him. And she had more in common with him than with probably all of her more recent lovers combined! Looking back, she realized that maybe he'd been dropping hints for a while, and she'd been blissfully ignorant, like an idiot. Still, what was done, was done. And here she was, in his arms. That in itself had to be cause for celebration. She smiled, snuggling closer to him. Definitely cause for celebration!
It was almost full dark before Mark and Harley got up, and while she freshened up, he headed for the kitchen to turn on the oven to finish cooking dinner. He was just putting the veal chops in when he heard a soft exclamation behind him, and he turned to see Harley looking at the dining room table with wide eyes. She looked at him as he approached her.
"Mark . . . "
He smiled, stroking his hand over her hair. "Relax. I'm not usually one for this kind of thing, but Lizzie seemed to think it was called for."
She slid her arms around his waist with a little chuckle. "I was a little freaked - thought you were putting some heavy romantic moves on me for a minute!"
He arched an eyebrow and then grinned at her. "And what's wrong with romance?"
"Well, nothing, I suppose, but it's not really me either," she had to admit.
He kissed the top of her head. "We're not going to get the chance to do something like this very often, Kate. Let's enjoy it while we can."
He was right, she thought, hugging him. With a little pang, she realized that, after tomorrow, things were going to be very different to how they had been for the last few days. It was a sobering thought, but rather than let it spoil their evening, she put it away from her and looked up at him with a smile.
"Absolutely. Can I do something to help with dinner?"
She had to admit, as they sat down to dinner later, the candles and flowers really did set a special mood. Not that she and Mark really needed anything to help them relax and enjoy one another's company, once they had stopped being at cross-purposes. And Lizzie had outdone herself with the meal. They worked together to clean up afterwards, and then Mark had shooed her out to the living room with their wine glasses.
Setting them down, she had gone back to the table to snag the candles too, bringing them into the living room rather than turning on the lamps. Hell, why not try and keep the mood alive a little longer?
When Mark stepped into the living room, he smiled, seeing the candles. For all that neither of them were much for the romantic stuff, it did seem to be working for them tonight. He sat down beside Harley, leaning in to kiss her softly before setting down the tray of truffles on the coffee table. She smiled at him.
"Chocolate?" she asked, her eyes twinkling.
"I think Lizzie was working from a 'Food for Lovers' playbook for tonight," he chuckled.
She couldn't help her giggle, and he pulled her into his arms with a grin. "She also said you wouldn't be able to resist them if I offered them to you."
"Well, if you're offering . . . "
Keeping one arm wrapped around her, Mark reached for the truffles, picking one up and bringing it to Harley's mouth, his eyes locking with hers as he ran the chocolate over her lips. She gave a tiny shiver and darted her tongue out the lick at her lips, tasting the chocolate there, and then leaned in more, taking the truffle between her teeth and nibbling at it, making a little sound of pleasure at its taste.
Mark felt a flood of heat through him, watching her. She leaned forward again, her tongue licking delicately at his fingertips before taking another little bite of the truffle. Her eyes never left his.
"Taste good?" he murmured huskily.
"Very good," she replied softly, darting her tongue out over her lips.
He couldn't resist, leaning in to capture her lips in a gentle kiss that carried a hint of the sweetness of the truffle.
Her tongue flicked into his mouth before she broke the kiss to murmur against his lips, "More, please."
Bringing the truffle to her lips, Mark smiled. "Always give the lady what she wants, especially when she asks so nicely."
Harley looked up at him as he placed the rest of the chocolate into her mouth, giving a little wriggle of pleasure as she swallowed it. "Mmmm, yummy."
Then she caught sight of his fingers, taking his hand and bringing it up to her lips, her tongue curling around each one in turn, licking off the melted chocolate there. Mark allowed a low groan to escape him as she took one of his fingers into her mouth and sucked on it slowly. Her eyes seemed so dark as they locked to his.
"Kate!" he moaned helplessly.
A little smile curved her lips as she lay his hand down. "Something wrong, Mark?"
"You really shouldn't start the engine if you're not intending to take a ride," he admonished her gently.
"I wasn't starting the engine. Just . . . testing it," she laughed softly.
He leaned in to nuzzle at her neck with a playful growl. "It's working perfectly, thank you. As you'll find out soon enough."
Her hands came up to tangle in his hair as she arched her head back. "I'm looking forward to it. Very much."
While he was tempted to give her a little taste of what she had to look forward to, he restrained himself. It wasn't like they were in any rush, after all. But he did hook the ottoman into the corner of the sofa so that he could lay back with his feet up, drawing her into his arms with a smile. They lay together comfortably, talking quietly as the fire burned lower.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the first flashes of lightning in the distance. Thunderstorms around here were commonplace, even the more severe ones, but this house was rock solid, and on high enough ground that flooding was never an issue, though a heavy enough downpour sometimes caused the ornamental ponds to overflow. He actually liked storms - the floor to ceiling windows in this room gave him a perfect view of the lightning at night.
He continued to stroke his fingers gently through Harley's hair as they talked, when a flash of lightning lit the whole room. He was about to begin counting after he saw the flash, wanting to work out how far away the storm was, when Harley clutched at him with a little cry. He wrapped his arms around her, frowning a little.
The thunder struck then, a boom loud enough to shake the windows - the storm was obviously a big one, and not that far away. Harley hid her face in his chest, and he could feel her shaking. The laugh that had been about to leave his lips died - she seemed seriously scared.
"Kate, what's wrong?"
"The storm," she managed to whisper.
"It's miles away yet, and this house is plenty solid. Nothing to worry about, honestly." His hand stroked her hair gently.
"Yes, there is - the lightning," she gulped.
He stared at her. "You're afraid of lightning?"
He could see the panic in her eyes, and he pulled her close, cradling her in his arms. She really was afraid, and there was nothing worse than an irrational fear, because there was nothing anyone could say that could ease it. The night lit again with another flash of light, and he realized this was probably not the best room to be in.
Sitting up, he shifted the ottoman away so he could put his feet down, still holding her close. He bent over to blow out the candles, and then pressed a kiss to Harley's temple.
"Come on, Kate, let's get you somewhere away from this storm."
She nodded, and he rose to his feet, drawing her up with him. She huddled into his side as he led her to the master suite where he settled her on the oversized armchair in front of the fireplace while he closed the shutters and drapes, plunging the room into darkness before he flicked on one of the lamps. This room was on the opposite side of the house to the storm, and the drapes and shutters created a complete black out - very handy when he was trying to get over jetlag after international tours.
He took a moment to light the fire, glancing at Harley, not missing how nervous she still appeared, and then he joined her on the armchair, which was roomy enough for both of them. He leaned back, pulling her close to him, and used the remote on the table beside him to turn on the stereo. Perhaps the music might help distract her.
To his relief, it worked. He could hear the storm raging outside, but only when he really listened for it. And Harley seemed not to be hearing it at all. He stroked his hand over her back, feeling her gradually relaxing against him again. Afraid of lightning - if that didn't beat all!
They were both dozing off when Mark realized that he hadn't heard any noise from the storm for a while. He pressed a kiss to the top of Harley's head.
"Kate? I think the storm's over."
She nodded sleepily. "Has been for a while."
"You okay now?"
She nodded again. "Yeah. Thanks, Mark."
He hugged her close. "It was nothing. You . . . want to sleep in here tonight?" That had nothing to do with the storm.
Sighing softly, she nuzzled her cheek to his chest. "Yes, I do." She felt so safe with him. Comfortable. "But I probably shouldn't."
"Why not? I promise - no funny business."
That made her laugh. "Actually, I was going to say that maybe it was too soon for that." She smiled at him, one hand caressing his face. "I'm still getting used to the idea of us having a relationship that's anything more than a friendship, Mark."
He was wise enough not to argue with her, settling instead for kissing her goodnight quite thoroughly. As he lay in bed a little while later, his hands laced together behind his head, staring up at the ceiling in the darkness, he had another of those realizations. Intimacy - real intimacy, not just sex - was something Harley seemed to shy away from. It was why she tended to bolt from him the moment he pushed the issue.
Not for the first time, he envied Jeff Hardy. He was the one person that Harley seemed truly at ease with. But then, Jeff had been Harley's friend for longer than anyone in the company. It seemed suddenly like Harley's surgery was a blessing in disguise. They would have time to grow together as friends, for her to become more comfortable with him, before they embarked on anything more intimate.
It occurred to him that it was a rather more old-fashioned model for a relationship than probably either of them were used to. Certainly, his plans for her had included getting her into his bed as soon as he could - quite aside from liking her, he couldn't deny he wanted her. Having her glued to him that morning in Topeka had been a huge wake up call for him - up until then, he'd enjoyed her company, although he had to admit he found her attractive. But the rocky road they'd been on had him far more focused on keeping the peace and building a friendship.
Now? His desire for her hadn't diminished at all, but it was being tempered by a growing . . . care for her. His forehead furrowed in the dark. He still liked her, still wanted her, but now he wanted things for her as well. He wanted to take care of her - tonight, bringing her in here, trying to shield her from the storm? It had felt so good! And that was confusing, because he liked her independence, how capable she was. He didn't want a woman who relied on him for every little thing.
Well, they'd just have to see what happened, he guessed, turning onto his side. One thing was certain, though - he'd enjoy having her with him all the more for having to wait for it.
Harley was up at sunrise the following morning. It was like an internal alarm clock - when she knew she was flying out to work, she was up early. At least from here in Houston, it wasn't such an early start as it was from Cullowhee. She packed her clothes into her case, grateful to Lizzie for the laundry she had done. She was putting her workboots on when the tap came on her door.
"Come in," she called, smiling as Mark entered the guest room.
His eyebrows rose when he saw her fully dressed, and he couldn't help his chuckle. "Well there goes my plan for a little quiet snuggling with you to start the day!"
A light flush coloured her cheeks as she looked over at him, taking in his casual jeans and t-shirt and his bare feet. But then she winked.
"I can always take off my workboots, Mark."
He threw his head back and laughed. "Now there's a come on line for the ages! Please do, sweetheart!"
Giggling herself, she took off her workboots as Mark came over to the windowseat. He bent down and picked her up, carrying her over to the bed over her laughing protests, and knelt on it, laying her down in the center before stretching out beside her. He leaned in to kiss her then.
She smiled, returning his kiss. "Good morning, Mark."
He stroked his hand over her hair. "Sleep okay?"
Nodding, she moved closer to him, her arm going around his waist. "Very well, thank you. You?"
"Like a log. Always do at home." Mark rested his cheek against her hair. He was pleased he hadn't been rebuffed, given what he'd been thinking about the night before.
Harley smiled, liking the way his voice rumbled in his chest when she was this close to him. Funny, she had never picked him for being a man who was physically so demonstrative, but then, in all honesty, she hadn't really thought that much about him in that way until he'd managed to get it through her thick skull that he was interested in her.
Still, it was nice, she thought, cuddling closer to him. She liked the warmth and solidness of him, and how those big arms could be so gentle wrapped around her. It made her want to be in them more every time she was. If that made any sense. For probably the first time in her life, she felt the ground under her feet becoming unstable when it came to a man. It scared her a little.
The dalliances she'd had with all those Lost Boys were something completely different. For the most part, they had been hurried affairs, frantic couplings devoid of any deeper feeling than lust that usually ended with her going back to her own room. There was little or no emotional involvement. Perhaps that's why she had been so afraid when she'd been confronted by the lead singer of the band, confessing his love for her? She already had an emotional attachment to him, so it would have been near impossible to keep the sex so cut and dried.
She sighed to herself. That was water under the bridge. She and he had made their peace. Now, it remained to be seen if she could avoid making that mistake with Mark. And if she did, she probably had Jeff to thank for it. After all, he was the one who'd shown her that it was possible to develop a loving friendship and intimacy at the same time.
Jeff had paved the way for Mark, in a sense. Without Jeff, she wouldn't have been able to cope with the curveball that Mark's interest in her had thrown her. Now, she was ready for Mark. Well, as ready as she was ever going to be. She nuzzled her cheek to his chest, sighing softly as his hand gently caressed her back.
They lay together for some time, until the room began to brighten more. Mark pressed a soft kiss to the top of Harley's head.
"We should get up, Kate."
Her arms tightened around him for a moment, hugging him close, and he smiled, returning the hug gently, mindful of not hurting her. She raised her head from his chest as she gradually stopping hugging him, smiling at him.
"Okay, I'm good now."
He could only laugh, bending his head to kiss her lightly before sitting up.
Usually, Mark would have had breakfast in one of diners on the way to the airport, but he wanted to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with Harley at home instead. Fortunately, because she'd already packed, and because she wasn't the type of woman who took an age to get ready to leave, they had plenty of time together, laughing and talking in the breakfast nook together.
Later, he took their bags out to his truck, and even though she protested that she thought she could probably climb into the truck herself now, he lifted her into the passenger seat, leaning in to kiss her once she was settled. The drive to the airport seemed to take less time than usual, with her chuckling at his driving and exclaiming over the sights. That gave him the opening he needed to rank her out for being a country mouse, and a redneck, and they were both laughing when they pulled into the curbside check in at the airport.
Mark got out of the truck and came around to lift Harley down, once more ignoring her protests, and they checked their luggage and collected their boarding passes. Mark smiled at her then.
"It's quite a walk from long term parking, Kate. Why don't you go on in? I'll see you in the departure lounge, okay?"
She smiled up at him and nodded, liking his thoughtfulness. She reached out to touch his arm. "Okay, Mark. You need me to get anything for you on the way?"
He shook his head, leaning down to kiss her lightly. "No thanks, sweetheart. See you in a few, okay?"
Her smile widened, and her heart beat a little faster at his kiss. It seemed he was not afraid to show affection in public either - that was a nice surprise. She turned and headed into the airport as he drove off, checking her ticket to see what gate their flight was leaving from. She made her way to the second floor and the departure lounge, nodding to Paul London, who was also waiting for the flight.
Taking a seat near the window, she pulled one foot up under her and took out her iPod, putting in one earpiece and turning it on. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, her head nodding in time to the music.
When Mark arrived ten minutes later, he smiled, looking at her. Her and that damned iPod, he thought to himself with a chuckle as he crossed the departure lounge. As he sat down beside her, her eyes opened, and she took out the earpiece and turned off the iPod, tucking it back in her pocket as she smiled at him. He lay his arm along the back of her chair and leaned in to kiss her lightly. She smiled and leaned into him as he hugged her.
They sat in companionable silence until the flight was called, and he rose to his feet and held his hand out to help her up. She couldn't help her smile at that - he was so mannerly like that, and even more so of late. His arm went back around her shoulders as they approached the gate, and she didn't miss the look of surprise on Paul London's face as he watched them together.
When they took their seats on the plane, she leaned in to Mark with a little chuckle.
"We've been 'noted', chief. Five'll get you ten that by the time we land in Baton Rouge, the news will have spread."
Mark just laughed, his arm going back around her shoulders to give her a hug. "Won't stop me laying a serious one on you at breakfast tomorrow, Kate. Hell, might even do it tonight before dinner too. Wouldn't want folks to miss any valuable gossiping time, would we?"
She leaned her head against his shoulder, laughing.
Once the flight was in the air, Mark looked at her, one finger brushing her bangs from her eyes gently.
"Can I ask you something, Kate?"
She nodded. "Sure, Mark - what did you want to know?"
"Last night, during the storm - you really that afraid of lightning?"
He could feel her stiffen, and heard the sharply indrawn breath. He gently stroked her hair, looking kindly at her, and eventually she nodded slowly. He looked puzzled.
"But it's just electricity - Kate, you work with electricity and explosives every day, how can you be scared of lightning?"
"Because it's unpredictable! It's not . . . ordered, like current, which flows from a source and takes the path of least resistance. It comes out of nowhere, and it's way more powerful and destructive!" She sounded almost panicky even talking about it.
"Shhh, it's okay, I just want to understand, sweetheart."
She took a shuddery breath, and then another. Her eyes met his and she nodded.
"Mark, it's probably because I work with electricity that lightning scares me so much. Part of the job is knowing about the dangers. So I know exactly what electricity can do to a person, even at its weakest. I've seen people get electric shocks, hell, I've had 'em myself. And they scare me too, but I can guard against them. I can be properly cautious, wear rubber soled workboots, use safety approved tools. But you can't do that against lightning!"
He shrugged. "Sure you can, Kate. I mean, you stay indoors during storms, and avoid trees and stuff if you're caught outside."
"Mark, do you know people are hurt, even killed, every year by lightning strikes inside their own homes? And it's not just because they're on the phone, or the computer. Or in the tub when lightning strikes an external metal pipe. Metal windowframes can conduct electricity. If there's enough static in the air, a charge can jump - you don't even have to be touching it. It can even travel through the ground and up through the floor!" Harley's hands were clenched as she tried to explain a fear that defied explanation.
His arms went around her then, leaning over to hug her. He could feel her trembling.
"I think I understand now, Kate."
Her voice was muffled as she buried her face in his chest. "You think I'm stupid now? Or silly?"
"Hell no! I think you're . . . human. We're all afraid of something - it takes real guts to admit that to someone else, though."
She looked up at him then. "You gonna tell me what you're afraid of?"
He shook his head, grinning as he gave her a little taste of American Bad Ass attitude. "I ain't afraid of anything, little girl. Anyone tells you different, like Glenn, can't be believed."
He tipped her a tiny wink, and she chuckled at his playfulness.
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